Last year Grad Student/Contra Dancer Brianne Donaldson and her research team from The Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University (California) conducted a study on how dancing affects neurochemical change in the brain. Blood was drawn, dances were danced, surveys were filled out . . . . and the results are finally in!

Our study with the Cal Dance Co-op showed the following:

  1. Contra dancing resulted in a 6% increase in Oxytocin, the neuropeptide and hormone associated with trust and social connection.
  2. Contra dancing increased social bonding. On the survey questions that asked participants to rate their closeness to other people in general and members of the dancing community, both measures increased after dancing.
  3. The change in oxytocin predicted how much closer each of the 30 participants felt to each other, with closeness increasing 10% on average.
  4. Interestingly, for the first time in any oxytocin experiment run by the CNS lab, men released more oxytocin and felt closer to others than did women.
  5. Testosterone (in both men and women) raised an average of 18% in this study, suggesting that dancing does raise libido, and perhaps social preening as well.
  6. Finally, there was a 51% increase in the stress hormone ACTH. Dancing is energetic!

For any additional questions, please feel free to contact lab member Brianne Donaldson at or visit the website for The Center for Neuroeconomic Studies. Many thanks for your loaning your dancing bodies to our ongoing research!

This page is part of the Contra Dance Links web site.
Produced by Charlie Seelig
Last updated on April 19, 2011